CEDIA EXPO 2006: The Buzz Wasn’t the Products
CEDIA EXPO 2006 has come and gone, and as with every show, we are all looking for The Buzz. What were the dealers talking about? What made them excited enough to tell their peers?
I know you’re all eagerly anticipating my take on all of that, but hold your horses for a second.First, let me tell you about my winner for Best Retail Sales Story at CEDIA.
Gordon Friend, a wonderful retailer executive who works out of the Metro New York market, relates the following conversation he overheard between one of his salespeople, Albert Chua, and a customer.
The woman asked, “What is the difference between plasma and LSD?”
Without skipping a beat, Albert responded, “LSD is very bad for you. You should buy the plasma.”
Certainly, that’s the most compelling reason I’ve heard yet to buy a plasma.
OK, back to the show…
Not Your Typical Trade Show
I’ve been attending trade shows since the 1970s; I even attended the last two Chicago CES shows: The Wake on the Lake I and The Wake on the Lake II. Typically, all of these shows have a product Buzz—the newest, the neatest, the “I am interested in that product for my business” Buzz.
Such wasn’t the case at CEDIA EXPO 2006.
To get a real sense of the Buzz, I always ask the CEDIA classes I teach about what’s new and exciting. I taught four classes at this CEDIA and, surprisingly, I got a lot of blank stares with my question and virtually no comments.
It appears that, in many ways, we’re maturing as a business. To many attendees, the “latest and greatest” is not as interesting as it once was. What interested them was the future and what we’re doing in and with our businesses.
Education is certainly hot. Many classes were sold out and the need for information and education was clearly apparent. Business practices and software, reliability of products, confusion in the marketplace and connectivity with existing platforms or new platforms were hot topics of discussion. For example, a frustration with HDMI and the continuing lack of reliability in interfacing so-called HDMI products was clear. Seminars discussing HDMI were packed, as dealers want and need to know how to use this connector in their installations.
Clearly, my mantra of “reliability, reliability, reliability” and cookie-cutter designs was not working when HDMI was injected into the video signal stream.
To further support my impressions and to get another point of view, I lucked out on the last day of the show. I shared a cab to the airport with someone from one of the larger custom retailers. We discussed his views of the show, and he articulated many of the attitudes and observations that I’d obtained.
He thought Denver was terrific—numerous restaurants without long waits, easy access from the hotels to the exhibits. He thought it was great having almost all of the exhibits on the one floor of the convention center, although he felt sorry for the vendors on the lower level, as they weren’t very visible to the attendees. My observer thought the floor was a bit confusing, with many aisles that didn’t run the length of the hall and many poorly marked locations. There was no grid.
He found the education and manufacturers’ seminars well done. He was so impressed with the quality of knowledge being disseminated that he committed to attending more of these seminars next year.
We talked about specific products and technologies. Many vendors addressed the integration of digital media and home theater, but we felt there was no real or good solution. The presence of the large technology companies clearly shows they believe in the custom business, but for now, they’re working with existing platforms such as Media Center; it’s not a real integration of media distribution and systems. We’ll probably have to walk before we run before we get end users involved with media distribution.
We then discussed user interfaces—a hot topic throughout the show. Almost all vendors still don’t quite get it. It’s truly amazing that we still struggle in this area, since customers do talk with vendors. We’re probably still at the stage where vendors are competing with each other on feature and button count, rather than giving the user a simple, easy-to-use device. Where’s the iPod of the remote control world?
On the matter of Blu-ray and HD DVD, we agreed that consumers aren’t going to accept both formats, and no real resolution to this issue is in sight. The stark reality for these formats, however, is that customers aren’t complaining about the DVD performance they currently get with their high-end home theaters.
My cab-mate felt customers are skeptical of some of the new technologies, and that we aren’t giving customers who bought plasmas and front projectors a few years ago enough reasons to buy more stuff.
Arriving at the airport, we concluded that the market is maturing and that more mass merchants will offer some of the services that custom installers today are offering exclusively. The neat and cool aspects of flat-panel displays are becoming mainstream.
Maybe we need to find some legal LSD-like substance to inject the market with some new product excitement.
In the meantime, these were the CEDIA 2006 Top Three: Business, Maturity, Education.
Product was a distant fourth.
Welcome to our new world. CR
Robert Ain (email@example.com) is a consultant with over 30 years of CE experience in almost all areas of distribution, manufacturing and marketing.